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Marine Life & Conservation

FINished with Fins



I’m Sharon Kwok, a Eurasian American born in Hong Kong but growing up in both places. Consequently I’m in a position to appreciate both cultures. Until recent years, every banquet I attended seemed to include shark fin soup. Although the exact origin of this ostentatious dish is shrouded in mystery, we do know it had to come from China’s southern coastal regions, and it was never a favourite of the Northern Chinese. Therefore l doubt the truthfulness of claims that it was a fancy dish created for the Emperor; perhaps it was a fancy marketing ploy, but we’ll never know for sure. I’ve heard a version of shark fin soup’s origin being simply the fishermen’s frugal use of their catch. In bygone days, any obviously useful parts would either be sold fresh or salted to survive a trip to inland China. Thus, they figured out a way to make the fins edible, then palatable via the tasty ingredients used in the broth because the fins are virtually tasteless but for their fishiness.

Over the past several years, concerned parties have noticed a dramatic decline in sharks. So while businesses who deal in shark fins try to catch as much as possible while they’re still around, conservation groups are doing their best to preserve the species. In a bold move, on June 30th 2010, Hawaii started an avalanche of legal opposition to this Chinese dish; very appropriate seeing as their native population respect not only sharks but also their Shark-God ‘Kamoho’. In 2011, I was involved with lobbying for AB 376, California’s ban on the trade in shark fins. This bill was met with serious and well funded opposition due to the size of the older Chinese community in California, many of whom have business interests in the restaurant or dried seafood trade (a trade which often stretched to Asia due to much of the fins from southern American seas funnelling through California). Governor Jerry Brown signed AB376 in Oct 2011 and even after several legal attempts to overthrow it, it holds fast. This movement went swiftly to other states and even countries but the most opposition is in Asia. Living in Hong Kong, I’m at ground Zero of the trade. Fellow advocates and l try to affect change wherever and however we can, from convincing hotels to opt for ‘fin-free’ menus to pressurising airlines to stop carrying them. We also raise awareness via education in schools or raise public awareness through media. As a whole, we are thrilled to see results and sometimes, big changes such as the latest big coupe in Asia which saw Bruni’s Sultan effecting a national ban of all catch-and-landing of sharks this June.

Sharon Kwok shark fin freezers Hong Kong 2011

The reason for all the fuss isn’t merely humane issues although that should be a strong enough one because most fins come from ‘finning’ rather than as a by-product of fishing. Finning is when sharks are caught only for their fins and their bodies are thrown back into the ocean to die a torturous death. This happens because there are insufficient regulations. Fisheries that target fins send their massive boats out to collect as much high yielding goods as possible, and while a pound of perfectly edible shark meat might sell for a few U.S. dollars, a pound of premium fin could sell for a few hundred. Since many large shark species take decades to reach sexual maturity and bear but a few young infrequently, these apex predators do not multiply quickly enough to cope with the insatiable demand…and because dried fins can be kept indefinitely, fisheries will literally take all they can for the unsustainable trade.

Perhaps a more important reason for putting a stop to this is the preservation of our oceans as we know it. Sharks have been here since pre-Jurassic times and they are a vital link that maintain the biodiversity of our marine ecology. We know that they’ve never come under the level of predation they’re currently suffering and their numbers are in obvious decline, but we don’t know for sure what their disappearance will mean to us. However, do we want to risk it? Dare we? Our oceans cover well over three quarters of the Earth’s surface. It helps maintain our climate as well as providing us with water and much of our oxygen. We are custodians of our resources so that future generations may enjoy them so at this time, one of the most  responsible things to do is to say ‘NO’ to shark fin soup.

Sharon Kwok was born in Hong Kong of a Chinese mother and an American father of Germanic descent. She has taught arts at the Asian Arts Institute, enjoyed a career in acting (and has appeared in over a dozen films as well as worked at T.V.B., RTHK, and ATV Hong Kong), is a member of The White Crane Martial Arts Group International and is a keen scuba diver. Sharon has supported charities such as Lifeline Express, Youth Outreach, Make A Wish Foundation, and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse to name a few. A member of The Society of Women Geographers, ambassador for SPCA H.K., Hong Kong Cetacean Research Project, and Bloom, Sharon is also Director of WildAid HK, Mission Blue, and Executive Director of the AquaMeridian Conservation & Education Foundation, which is a registered non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness of conservation issues globally, starting with Hong Kong.


Invitation from The Ocean Cleanup for San Francisco port call



the ocean cleanup

6 years ago, The Ocean Cleanup set sail for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with one goal: to develop the technology to be able to relegate the patch to the history books. On 6 September 2024, The Ocean Cleanup fleet returns to San Francisco bringing with it System 03 to announce the next phase of the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and to offer you a chance to view our cleanup system up-close and personal.
We look forward to seeing you there.

To confirm your presence, please RSVP to


Join The Ocean Cleanup as our two iconic ships and the extraction System 03 return to San Francisco, 6 years and over 100 extractions after we set sail, to create and validate the technology needed to rid the oceans of plastic.
Our founder and CEO, Boyan Slat, will announce the next steps for the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Giving you a chance to view our cleanup system and the plastic extracted.
Hear important news on what’s next in the mission of The Ocean Cleanup as it seeks to make its mission of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic an achievable and realistic goal.
Interviews and vessel tours are available on request.


Date: September 6, 2024
Press conference: 12 pm (noon)
Location: The Exploratorium (Google Maps)
Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street), San Francisco, CA
Parking: Visit The Exploratorium’s website for details.
Video & photo material from several viewing spots around the bay

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Ocean Cleanup is an international non-profit that develops and scales technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. They aim to achieve this goal through a dual strategy: intercepting in rivers to stop the flow and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean. For the latter, The Ocean Cleanup develops and deploys large-scale systems to efficiently concentrate the plastic for periodic removal. This plastic is tracked and traced to certify claims of origin when recycling it into new products. To curb the tide via rivers, The Ocean Cleanup has developed Interceptor™ Solutions to halt and extract riverine plastic before it reaches the ocean. As of June 2024, the non-profit has collected over 12 million kilograms (26.4 million pounds) of plastic from aquatic ecosystems around the world. Founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup now employs a broadly multi-disciplined team of approximately 140. The foundation is headquartered in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and opened its first regional office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2023.

Find out more about The Ocean Cleanup at

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Marine Life & Conservation




A shark has been spotted approaching Royal William Yard in Plymouth, much to the surprise of swimmers, paddleboarders and onlookers.

With its distinctive dorsal fin cutting through the water, the sizeable shark swam along the coastline, before turning to head inland towards Firestone Arch at Royal William Yard. The appearance drew a crowd, who were captivated for more than an hour by the unusual sight – and it was all caught on video.

The shark is one of many expected sightings at Royal William Yard over the coming weeks… because today marks the start of Shark Month!

In reality, the ‘shark’ spotted along the Plymouth shoreline was actually a custom-made model, created by the team at Royal William Yard and sailed underwater by Caroline Robertson‑Brown​​​​ from the Shark Trust, who donned scuba diving gear for the occasion.

The stunt took place to launch Shark Month in style and draw attention to the work of the leading international conservation charity, which is based in Britain’s Ocean City. Spectators were reassured that the water was safe and many entered into the spirit of the performance, swimming or sailing alongside the shark.

Shark Month will take place across Royal William Yard throughout July and will feature an extravaganza of art, entertainment and advocacy for everyone to enjoy. The packed programme of events starts with an art exhibition and ends with a trip on paddleboards with shark experts – with everything from a shark quiz to a Jaws screening in between.

Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust, said: “There are often assumptions and misconceptions when it comes to sharks. This was certainly the case with the shark spotted at Royal William Yard! While the British coastline is home to many species of shark, this was not one of them. However, we’re thrilled it caught people’s attention, because seeing a shark is a special and memorable moment. That is precisely why we want to celebrate these incredible creatures, highlight the need for conservation, and ask for help to safeguard their future.”

For more information about Shark Month at Royal William Yard, visit the Shark Trust Website.

Images and video: Jay Stone

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